by Dr John H Watson
I first learned about the Case of the Missing Countdown Episodes one Wednesday evening, as I rushed to the rooms in Baker Street which I shared with my friend and colleague Sherlock Holmes, with news of some other cases.
"Holmes!" I called, as I mounted the stairs. "The Prime Minister stopped me on my way back and told me that it is of the utmost national importance that you-"
"Pah!" interjected Holmes. "Whatever he wants, it can wait!" Holmes motioned to a letter which sat on the table. "I have a matter of much greater concern to attend to. These political trifles will have to sort themselves out."
"But what could be more important than great affairs of state?" I asked.
"You have heard, have you not, that all five episodes of Countdown last week were mysteriously pulled from the schedule?"
"Good heavens, Holmes! You don't mean..."
"Quite so, Watson. Hastily gathered repeats of Deal Or No Deal foisted on an unsuspecting British public while the Countdown Wiki itself remains incomplete. You see now why this must take precedence over your piffling matters of international diplomacy?"
"Excellent, Watson. Fortunately," he continued, handing me the letter on the table, "I have been contacted by none other than the foremost Countdown expert in all the land. Read this letter and tell me what you make of it. It arrived today."
"Postmarked Mirfield, dated Monday 15th - two days ago," I observed.
- Dear Mr Holmes,
You may be aware of the mysterious absence of Countdown last week. The week before, Tim Jackson won his first three games 100-88, 95-70 and 99-53. Then last week's episodes, from Monday 8th to Friday 12th, were mysteriously absent with no explanation. Then today, Monday 15th, Countdown returned as if it had never been away, and Nick mentioned that Tim Jackson had won his eighth game on Friday 12th!
I am at a loss as to why Tim's games between Monday 8th and Friday 12th were never shown, but they were deffo recorded! The reason why I ask your help, Mr Holmes, is that we now have a gap in our Countdown Wiki, which lists all Countdown results since the show first started. We have not had to put a gap in our wiki for 16 years , so any assistance you can provide in finding the scores of the missing games would be much appreciated.
I have managed to gather some small snippets of information about the games from my numerous internal sources, which may help in your endeavours. They are enclosed.
Mr J. Robinson.
I took the piece of paper and scanned my eyes down it.
"It's just a series of unconnected facts about scores and players' names and so on, Holmes. Surely this isn't enough information?"
"Alas, Watson, it is not. We will doubtless refer to it later, but I shall have to do some investigation of my own tomorrow morning."
* * *
When I awoke the next day, my friend had already breakfasted and left the house. I heard nothing from him until late that evening, when he returned to Baker Street.
"Where have you been, Holmes?"
"What on earth were you doing there?"
"Gathering information of singular importance to our case. I'll leave the details for another time, but by my deductions, those five episodes are almost certainly missing because someone in the production gallery forgot to put a tape in the recording machine on that day. Sadly this means the recordings are lost forever."
"My dear Holmes!"
"All is not lost, Watson. If we can just deduce the final scores of the missing games, that will be enough for the wiki. Mr Robinson's research, sparse though the information is, has proved most invaluable, as has this."
Holmes showed me a small scrap of paper.
"The Countdown production office," continued Holmes, "has a computer with the details of all the potential finalists in it, so they can be ranked in seed order. We know Tim Jackson was an octochamp - I just wanted to find his total. So I took the liberty of sneaking in to the Countdown office-"
"Holmes! However did you manage that?"
"By disguising myself as a consonant."
"I was able to hack into the computer, and I copied down the relevant information. Look."
I took the scrap of paper. "Total 739, highest score 109", I read. "Holmes, this really doesn't help us. Why couldn't you have looked up all Tim's scores while you were there?"
"Because that was as far as I got before a man came in and demanded to know what a giant consonant was doing in his office messing about with his computer. I said there was no cause for alarm, I was merely acting for James Robinson, and that just seemed to irritate him further and he threw me out. Still, I am sure this will suffice."
Without another word, Holmes strode to his writing desk, laid the scrap of paper next to the letter, selected a pencil and a fresh sheet of paper, drew some kind of grid, and began to work. After a considerable time, he slumped back in his chair.
"It's no use, Watson. I have deduced the scores for three of the five games, but still there are questions left unanswered. Surely there is something I have missed? Let's go over all the facts again."
Holmes paused for breath, and began...
- "Tim's first three games were shown on Wednesday the 3rd, Thursday the 4th and Friday the 5th. We know the scores for those. He played five more games in shows that were intended to be broadcast on Monday 8th to Friday 12th, and won them all with a total of 739 and a top score of 109. Now we have the research the good Mr Robinson undertook for us..."
- "A contestant named Eve Ellison was supposed to appear some time that week - she said so on Facebook on Saturday after her episode had failed to materialise. Fortuitously, she divulged that her opponent, our octochamp Tim Jackson, beat her with a score of 86."
"Watson, please don't interrupt a bulleted list with dialogue, it looks messy."
"A thousand apologies, my dear Holmes. Pray continue."
- "One member of the audience took an illicit audio recording of the end of one of the games, in which the challenger was one Dave Remenham. Mr Robinson has kindly enclosed it and I have listened to its contents. It starts just before the conundrum. Neither player buzzes. The answer is revealed, then Nick Hewer congratulates Tim on his victory, adding 'Only 77, though, Tim? You've slipped since Monday.'"
- "The person who supplied that recording also says that in the following game, Tim Jackson impressed Nick greatly with a score of 94 against a certain Bob Dixon."
- "Another audience member present for Tim Jackson's eighth game says that the challenger scored 79. In the game before that, the Thursday game, the challenger lost despite scoring 90."
- "Yet another audience member says that the third game, the Wednesday game, featured a sub-second conundrum solve. Irritatingly, they didn't remember who buzzed or what their answer was."
- "A friend of Chris Hambledon mentioned that Chris got 40 points against Tim. Sadly this witness didn't hang around for any other games, nor did anyone think to ask her which game it was, but she does remember another contestant named Alison Evans in the green room."
- "Mark Foster was the dictionary corner guest that week. He tweeted this picture at the end of one of the games, and, as you can see, the champion's score is 89."
- "In another game the challenger scored 58, but we don't know who that was or which game it was."
"That's it?" I asked.
"That's it. I fear there is still too little information, and the secret will be lost for-"
Holmes stopped mid-sentence.
"Wait! Watson, pass me that letter from Mr Robinson - the first page."
I handed Holmes the letter.
"Holmes, I can't see how it tells us anything we don't already know," I warned, as he cast his eyes over the letter.
"Aha!" exclaimed Holmes, as he filled in the last couple of boxes on his grid. "Mr Robinson's famous attention to detail has proved vital! I thought the task was impossible, that too much information was missing, but provided one is well acquainted with the rules, the deduction of that last crucial piece of information is elementary."
"All in good time. First, I shall write a letter to our friend Mr Robinson detailing the names of all Tim Jackson's challengers, the days on which they appeared, and the final scores of all five games. While I do so, Watson, you know my methods, you know the programme's rules, and you have seen all the clues you need. Take this blank grid. Perhaps you'd like to try your hand at solving the mystery yourself?"
Code: Select all
Day Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Challenger Tim's score Challenger's score